Author: James O'Brien

Montreal Canadiens v Calgary Flames

Flames’ Stajan goes on IR, out about six weeks


The Calgary Flames placed Matt Stajan on IR on Wednesday, estimating that he’ll miss about six weeks with a knee injury.

Stajan suffered the issue thanks to a knee-on-knee hit by Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jarred Tinordi on Tuesday:

Tinordi, 22, received a two-minute minor kneeing penalty for the infraction.

With Stajan on the shelf, the Flames’ injury list is growing rapidly. Calgary also recently placed key forward Mason Raymond on IR while Joe Colborne is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. The team recalled Markus Granlund from the AHL in light of all of these issues.

Stajan, 30, hasn’t had the greatest start to the 2014-15 season. He has one goal and one assist through 11 games, yet with some ailments to other key parts of this team’s offense, this is a challenging loss.

The Flames’ next game is against the Nashville Predators on Friday.


NHL on NBCSN: Bruins, Wild try to find their footing

David Krejci, Mikael Granlund

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Boston Bruins host the Minnesota Wild at the TD Garden at 7:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

It’s unlikely that many pundits picked the Boston Bruins to face the Minnesota Wild in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final – at least not against each other – yet both teams came into 2014-15 with high hopes. They’re currently hitting some bumps in the road early on, though.

For the Bruins, it’s a time of opportunities and challenges.

With Zdeno Chara on the mend for at least a month, rising defensemen Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton gain the chance to prove that the B’s future isn’t so grim without “The Big Z.” Krug, for one, told that he’s eager to show that he can handle increased minutes and responsibilities.

“When your name is called you do whatever you can to help the team win. The goal is always to build trust between me and the coaching staff,” Krug said. “I think they’re definitely starting to show a little more trust in me, and it’s a challenge that I really enjoy.

“We understand that we’ve got guys in here that can play those big minutes and fill the void. A game like [the win vs. the Leafs] shows that we can do it, but it’s about everybody stepping up rather than just one or two guys.”

It’s probably accurate to say that Hamilton stepped up the most in Boston’s first post-Chara game (a 4-1 win against Toronto), scoring a goal and two assists.

Deep down, scoring has been the biggest issue for the Bruins so far in their 5-5-0 start. While Chara’s absence leaves a crater behind on defense, Claude Julien is still searching for answers, including finding the right fit for the David Krejci – Milan Lucic line.

The Wild try to pick themselves up after a tough loss

Before Monday’s third period meltdown against the New York Rangers, Darcy Kuemper only allowed more than one goal in a single period in 2014-15. The Wild’s late-game struggles spotlight the perils of assuming too much from the first few weeks of any season, as despite a massive +12 goal differential, Minnesota’s record is just 4-3-0.

Despite boasting an enviable array of offensive threats including Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu, the Wild haven’t been able to notch a single power-play goal so far this season. They’re a pitiful 0-for-24 so far, which is a number that would be even more troubling if the team hasn’t been so dominant in other areas. In these past seven games, the Wild have only allowed one power-play goal, one shorthanded tally and nine even-strength goals.

The two teams don’t have the deepest histories, yet Niklas Backstrom has been a Bruins buster.

As notes, Backstrom is 4-0-1 with great individual stats (.969 save percentage, .98 GAA) in five career games against Boston. Considering Kuemper’s tough night and the back-to-back games, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Finn possibly face off against fellow countryman Tuukka Rask tonight. The question is: could Backstrom start to push Kuemper for reps with a strong performance?


Considering the two teams’ recent histories, Wild – Bruins hints at a grinding, low-scoring battle … on paper. These two teams are just starting to carve out their identities in 2014-15, though.

Devils’ Schneider is ‘prepared’ to play 70+ games

New York Rangers v New Jersey Devils

During his incredible career with the New Jersey Devils, Martin Brodeur played at least 70 games 12 different times. The NHL still has its fair share of “workhorse” goalies, yet we haven’t seen someone shoulder the burden of 70+ games since 2011-12.*

In his first season as an unquestioned No. 1, Cory Schneider told the Newark Star-Ledger that he’ll gladly aim for such a haul.

“I’m very prepared,” Schneider said. “You try to take it game by game, or in smaller segments. If you think about it as an 82-game season it gets pretty overwhelming and you sort of lose focus on what’s coming up next. For me it’s more about the next game than trying to figure out what I’m going to feel like 30, 40 50 games in.”

That’s a pretty ambitious goal for a netminder who set a career-high with 45 games played last season.

Granted, the 28-year-old transitioned from a playing time tug-of-war with one potential Hall-of-Famer (Roberto Luongo) in Vancouver to a certain one in Brodeur, so it’s not as though we can openly question his conditioning.

Schneider discussed the “mental and physical side of things,” yet the team’s schedule will be the biggest hurdle.

“The schedule is going to dictate a lot,” Schneider said. “We’ve been fortunate to have a pretty broken-up start here where I’m able to handle it. But I know next month things get pretty hectic. Clemmer has been working hard and we have a lot of faith in him to step in there and play games when he has to. I’m sure we’ll find times to manage the schedule almost mores than managing myself.”

Indeed, it might be tough to pull this off, even ignoring NHL trends. The Devils came into 2014-15 tied for the second-most back-to-back sets with 18, and they’ve only knocked one of those out (Schneider went 1-0-1 this past Friday and Saturday).

As far as backups go, the Devils have two interesting-if-flawed options in veteran Scott Clemmensen and young goalie Keith Kinkaid.

Many believe that the Devils could be a “bubble team” this season, which means that they might need to lean on Schneider quite a bit more than what’s become the norm in the NHL. At least he sounds like he’d prefer it that way, though.

* – Three goalies did so then: Pekka Rinne (73 games played), Jonas Hiller (73) and Miikka Kiprusoff (70).

Columbus places Bobrovsky on IR, expects him to miss 1-2 weeks

Dallas Stars  v Columbus Blue Jackets

The injuries just keep piling up for the Columbus Blue Jackets, yet this one present the team with its biggest test yet: Sergei Bobrovsky’s been placed on IR with a fractured finger.

There is a little light at the end of the tunnel, however: the team only expects him to miss a week or two with that injury.

“Fractured finger” sounds like something that would sideline a goalie for longer, but the team’s timeline seems like a reason for Blue Jackets fans (and players) to let out a sigh of relief. Curtis McElhinney will start in tonight’s home game against the Ottawa Senators while the Blue Jackets recalled Anton Forsberg to back him up.

Bobrovsky, 26, is in a contract year. He’s 4-4-0 with a 2.81 GAA and .908 save percentage so far in 2014-15. As you may tell, he’s been the Blue Jackets’ lone starter so far this season.

Here’s a quick look at the Blue Jackets’ ridiculous list of injuries:

Nathan Horton (back, out indefinitely)
Boone Jenner (hand, expected back in a few weeks/a month)
Brandon Dubinsky (abdomen, out about one month)
Cam Aktinson (nearly took a skate to the eye, day-to-day)
Nick Foligno (upper body, day-to-day)
Matt Calvert (upper body, day-to-day)

According to this Monday update from the Blue Jackets, Calvert is also on injured reserve. Considering Foligno’s scary scene, this bit is mostly promising:

“My spinal cord looks good and there are no fractures. Now it’s just making sure that the stiffness goes away and that’s the worst part right now,” said Foligno. Foligno was having some difficulty turning his head, but said the training staff worked on him that morning and it did feel better after treatment. Foligno would not rule himself out for tomorrow night.

Foligno may have been overly ambitious with that comment, though:

Burning up: Draisaitl will reportedly play 10th game with Oilers

Tampa Bay Lightning v Edmonton Oilers

For better or worse, the Edmonton Oilers aren’t afraid to burn years off of their prized prospects’ entry-level deals. If TSN’s Ryan Rishaug’s report is correct, they’ll continue that pattern with Leon Draisaitl.

OK, technically they stashed Darnell Nurse (seventh overall in 2013) in junior last season, but if you limit things to top-three picks/forwards, it’s an obvious trend. From Taylor Hall to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to Nail Yakupov and now Draisaitl, the Oilers have opted for the instant jump each time.

Many will argue that such a gameplan is all about instant gratification instead of careful development, yet that’s up to debate, especially since it’s plausible that young forwards aren’t the ones who are most responsible for the fledgling franchise’s largest issues.*

Let’s step out of that vacuum for a moment and ponder Draisaitl’s work so far, though.

Mixed results

So far, the 19-year-old is averaging 13:14 minutes per game. He failed to score a point in his first three games before grabbing an assist on Oct. 15. He added another helper on Oct. 22 and scored his first goal (a game-winner) against the Carolina Hurricanes:

His possession stats are a bit challenging to decipher, which isn’t shocking considering the tiny sample size. While they look nice compared to teammates, he’s started an incredible 81 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, so it’s clear he’s heavily protected in limited minutes (so far).

Really, the Edmonton Journal’s headline from Oct. 26 probably nails it:

Leon Draisaitl: not great, not good, not bad, need to see more.

Apparently, the Oilers decided that they need to see more of him at the NHL level, in 2014-15.

This decision will produce some (justifiable) criticism, yet with Edmonton’s weakness at center – and promising winning streak – it’s also easy to see the logic of the move. Considering the hysteria generated from their lousy start, more than a few front office members might feel especially compelled to “win now.”

It looks like we’ll find out this season if Draisaitl can move the needle enough to justify the risks involved.

* – One fair criticism is that such a strategy might explain why the Oilers haven’t enjoyed much savings on “second contracts,” however. Despite a roster that hasn’t produced a playoff run, Edmonton only has about $4 million in cap space and isn’t really enjoying big savings on young players who boast better potential than results so far.